The Gift of Missed Chances

I have always loved swimming, and from an early age I found it was one thing I was pretty good at. In my early teens, my best friend Paul and I worked with the staff at the local swimming pool to organize a speed swimming team, The Watrous Whitecaps. We were a group of kids that had no real idea what we were doing, but it was an excuse to get more time in the water. Eventually we became more organized and started competing regularly in different competitions across the province. I focused on the backstroke, and by the mid-eighties I was beginning to bring home some hardware from different meets.

In 1986 I had an opportunity to race in the provincial championships in Humboldt. I can still remember how the sky looked as I chugged along in my outside lane, and I can remember hearing my coach yelling encouragement from the poolside deck. I remember a lot about that race, especially the little things I did not do quite right. My start was not as strong as usual, I messed up on my second turn, and I miscounted my strokes on my final length of the 25 meter pool. In the end it was a fantastic experience, but it was a missed opportunity. You see, I was in first place for most of the race, but it was my final mistake, not completing that last stroke, that kept me off the podium. Fourth place. It was that close!

We all have these stories in our lives. Stories of times we just missed our goal. My goal was to finish in the top three at provincials, but I just came up a little short. Of course there is a flip side to that tale as well. A story of success. In the wake of my actions were many fond memories, and a swim team that, to this day, still competes. But my goodness would I have loved to have grabbed a medal.

You may notice a little change in this week’s blog post as I am going to focus on things that did not work out how I had hoped they would. I’m going to take a bit of time to reflect on the year and shed some light on some things I’d love to have a “do-over” on. Please do not view this as a pity-party or as a plea for your forgiveness, rather, it is simply a look back at 2018 – 19 and a look at some things that did not go how I’d hoped.

The Right Question at the Right Time was a goal I had set for myself at the start of the year. As an administrative team, Jesse and I had spent a lot of time discussing the gift of a great question. My goal was to formulate a mediative question for you, whether it was in your classroom while you were teaching, in the office during a discussion, on the playground during supervision, or over a Coke (or a Pepsi with Dwayne) in the staff room. Looking back, I think I started strong this year, I was very intentional, and then at some point, I started asking fewer questions. Inadvertently I left you with fewer gifts as a result.

I reflect on a perfect opportunity that passed me by on Friday as I was in Steve’s room for a moment with the grade 10 class. Steve and his learners were engaged in an amazing conversation about stereotyping in the media. One student was sharing his opinions, which were well thought out and articulated very clearly. What stood out to me was that this boy does not typically consider himself one of the “smart” kids, yet there he was, a leading voice in the room. What I wanted to ask Steve was, “what intentional moves have you made as a teacher this year to create an environment where student name feels so comfortable to share his opinions?” I should have asked that question. I missed a chance.

Intentional, Uninterrupted Conversations was something I was hoping to schedule this year with every staff member. As 2017-18 was drawing to a close, I was able to have a great conversation with a staff member who reflected on how helpful conversations like these were in her previous school. I put together a rough schedule for when I thought I could meet with different staff members, knowing some were ‘morning’ people while others seemed to have more time open after school. For a variety of reasons, this did not happen as frequently as I wanted. When a teacher approached me this spring about how having a brief, yet focused meeting like this would have been beneficial, I realized I missed an opportunity.

Something I really appreciate is the way all of you have found a way to carve out time to come and speak with me from time to time. These conversations have varied from issues that need to be dealt with immediately to casual conversations about life, about learning, and about the little things that occur daily at school. What this tells me is that there is a need for this, and you are all figuring out a way to make this work. What I do not like about this is the message it sends; my time is more valuable than yours, and you need to ‘check’ if it’s a good time for the principal to talk. I should have scheduled those meetings. I missed a chance.

Covering Your Classes was something I have always wanted to do more of since becoming an in-school administrator. I recall for years as a teacher feeling that at times, my administrator did not fully appreciate what I was going through in my classroom, not only the struggles but the highlights as well. I always thought it would be great for my principal to spend some time with my struggling mathematicians or with my exceptional welders. I wondered how they would feel if they’d spent an hour immersed in our deep conversations in psychology or how they would differentiate an ELA lesson for 29 grade five students; eight of which were below to well below grade level and five of which were all well above grade level.

I did have a chance to cover some classes this year, and it was nice to have the classroom teacher feeling again. Most recently, I was able to cover Kindergarten for June, even if it was just for half an hour. I do think June was little concerned though, she did pop in and ask how I was doing (I couldn’t bring myself to answer honestly, I was floundering). Having the opportunity to work with the K-class reminded me that I wanted to do more of this. I should have covered some classes for you this year. I missed a chance.

A shoe factory sends two marketing scouts to a region of Africa to study the prospects for expanding business.

One sends back a telegram saying, SITUATION HOPELESS STOP NO ONE WEARS SHOES

The other writes back triumphantly, GLORIOUS BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY STOP THEY HAVE NO SHOES

The above anecdote reflects the choice I get to make. Do I look back at 2018-19 and feel hopeless because of the chances I missed, or do I think about the glorious opportunities that lie ahead?

On Monday we will have a chance to hear two more learning stories, Jesse’s and Dan’s, and then we will have an opportunity to do our own reflecting. I think it is important to make a note of those chances we may have missed, and then look at the opportunities they create. Cara shared one of the most insightful comments I’ve heard in years in her presentation. She spoke about a tough situation she was facing with a parent. Cara did everything she could to come to know this parent’s child as well as she could so, together, they could make the best decision possible. During this process, Cara’s assessment practices were impacted, and this had a ripple effect on what she did in class, and in the end, every student benefited from this tough situation. Cara found a glorious opportunity in a “shoeless” situation.

What missed chances will be your gifts for 2019-2020?

Here’s what is on the horizon for this week:

Monday:

  • Staff learning meeting with two more presentations, a reflection activity, and a look towards next year.
  • June, Brenda, and Kim are observing a pre-K student in Saskatoon to assist with a transition plan

Tuesday:

  • The annual Jones Awards! The students are excited about another opportunity to come together to share some laughs and showcase their talents

Wednesday:

  • Showcase of Excellence takes place during period three. We will celebrate the academic, athletic, and artistic accomplishments of many of our students
  • Final day of classes for grade 10 to 12 students
  • Jesse is away today at an admin planning team meeting

Thursday:

  • Final exams begin for students in grade 10 – 12 (regular classes continue for all other classes)

Friday:

  • Kindergarten orientations take place today (typically we use the library for this)

As always, create a great week!

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